Happy Birthday Gladys Knight!

Today’s post was written by Kaitlin Rogers, archives technician at the National Archives in College Park.

“I know those challenges that come up from time to time in life are our little learning tools, our little stepping stones. If we didn’t have those things in our life, how would we learn anything? We would just be walking around like nothing. We need those obstacles in our life because I know one thing – I’m a much better person for them.” – Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight and the Pips sing during the special Suzanne Somers show aboard the aircraft carrier USS RANGER (CV-61). (NAID 6349607, Local Identifier: 330-CFD-DN-SC-82-07169)

Gladys Knight was born on May 28th, 1944 in Atlanta, GA to Merald Knight Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth Knight. Sister to Merald, David, and Brenda, Knight has won ten Grammy awards and is widely known as the “Empress of Soul”. Growing up, Knight sang in her church choir. But her true debut was in 1952 when she won a talent competition on the TV show Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour. Knight started singing with her siblings Brenda and Merald and cousins Eleanor and William Guest in The Pips, a band named after their first manager and cousin. When Eleanor and Brenda left the group, Knight’s cousin Edward Patten took their place and they renamed the group Gladys Knight & the Pips.

In 1966 the band signed with Motown Records, and produced enduring hits such as “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be The First to Say Goodbye).” When Motown Records continued to prioritize a small cadre of artists, Knight and the band left the label in search of better opportunities, eventually signing with Buddah Records in 1973. Under Buddah Records, Gladys Knight & the Pips created more chart-topping works such as “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The group disbanded in 1988, having won three Grammy awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Knight continued to record and tour as a solo artist, winning seven more Grammy awards and establishing herself as an actress in both film and cinema. Gladys Knight is still known today for her landmark contributions to Soul, R&B, and Motown music. In addition to her multiple Grammys, she has won the National Medal of Arts, the NAACP Image Award, the BET Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Kennedy Center Honors.

The National Archives and the Presidential Libraries hold several documents, photographs, moving images, and sound recordings on Gladys Knight. Below are a few selections:

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